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'Lost' sculpture by Polish artist Alina Szapocznikow to be displayed in first UK retrospective

The sculpture Bird, 1959 will be displayed for the first time in over 57 years.

In an exhibition that spans the entire career of the much overlooked Polish artist Alina Szapocznikow (1926 – 1973), a work once considered to be lost will now be displayed for the first time in over 57 years at The Hepworth Wakefield.

Bird (1959), is part of a series of late-1950s works in which Szapocznikow took inspiration from the natural world and animal forms. The significant sculpture was found in the outhouse of an art collector in upstate New York and sold at auction by a private collector from Warsaw who wishes to remain anonymous. Bird has not been seen since its last public display, in 1961 at the Gres Gallery, Washington.

Unfortunately, many of Szapocznikow’s works have been lost or destroyed, in part due to the experimental materials the artist used. Until 2016, Bird was amongst a list of pieces by the artist that were considered lost.

This rediscovered sculpture produced in Szapocznikow’s studio in Warsaw, is on loan to the gallery and will be displayed alongside a selection of her drawings, archive photographs and sculptures which incorporate Szapocznikow’s characteristic use of cast body parts, many of which she transformed into everyday objects like lamps or pillows.

Szapocznikow radically reconceptualised sculpture as an imprint not only of memory but also of her own body, related to her traumatic experiences during WWII, as a Polish Jew, imprisoned for over 10 months in Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and Terezin concentration camps.

Alina Szapocznikow: Human Landscapes is on display at The Hepworth Wakefield from 21 October 2017 – 28 January 2018.

“This is an incredibly generous loan to the gallery. At least half of the exhibition will focus on Szapocznikow’s earlier work, and Bird is a wonderful and important example of her practice before she moved to Paris in the early 1960s.”

Andrew Bonacina, The Hepworth Wakefield’s Chief Curator

Bird, 1959, cement with metal fillings, metal structure , Private Collection, © ADAGP, Paris 2017. Courtesy The Estate of Alina Szapocznikow / Piotr Stanislawski / Galerie Loevenbruck, Paris. Photo: Desa Unicum